Titan managed business models by taking small risks: Bhaskar Bhat
Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director, Titan Company Ltd (Rtd), spoke about Titan’s journey at the Ayaz Peerbhoy Memorial Lecture in Bangalore on Friday
“Titan’s early success and continuing success really belong to a nation called India. We have been blessed to be in a country called India,” said Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director, Titan Company Ltd (Rtd), while addressing the audience at Ayaz Peerbhoy Memorial Lecture in Bangalore on Friday.
The event was hosted by the MAA Foundation on January 31. At the 39th edition of the memorial lecture, Bhat spoke on the topic - ‘Tribute to a legend’, and narrated the story of Xerxes Sapur Desai and the journey of Titan as a brand.
Bhat started the lecture by giving a brief introduction of Ayaz Peerbhoy and the various roles donned by him.
“Ayaz Peerbhoy was a journalist, freedom fighter, playwright, industrialist, antique collector, chef and above all a great human being. That is where the similarity starts between Xerxes Desai and Peerbhoy,” Bhat said.
He further narrated the story of Tata Press to Titan to Tata Group.
“All that we are today at Titan as a company, we owe Xerxes Desai. Titan was incubated in Tata Press - a company which knew nothing about manufacturing, marketing, distribution etc. I believe we are certainly able to disrupt, think out of the boxes when we get into businesses and that’s what Desai gave to this company. When we started out we didn’t have a single sales and marketing person in the watch business from the watch industry. Even today we don’t have a jeweller employed by us, except for one who we have hired for quality check of diamonds,” Bhat said.
Desai believed in the people’s principle where if we empower people and inspire them they can do much more than what they expect, he added. “Desai taught us about higher commitment and not competence.”
Bhat further took the audience through the journey of Titan as a brand and the lessons learned during the brand’s journey.
“The journey of Titan is very exciting. We started in 1984. We faced many failures and that made us stronger. Our entry into Europe and staying there for 10 years was a business disaster. We made a huge hole in our balance sheets, but the point was we learned a lot through that phase. We could afford to get out of that. We were there for prestige and not for profit alone. It was a bold move and that was a time when Tata Group was also venturing overseas,” Bhat said.
He continued, “Our first phase was the dream launch of the watch business. We launched Quartz watches when the whole country was on mechanical watches and that’s one of the greatest decisions we took, within 5 years we overtook HMT. We benefited from the incompetent competition. The next 10 years were very challenging. We continued to invest in the same way as we did in watches. One lesson for all business marketers and brand builders I would like to give is that - I wish you fail in the first few years because success doesn’t lead you down the road, failures point in the right direction.”
Bhat said early success of watches mislead them.
“We cut and paste the strategies of watches like international designs, sophisticated advertisements, high end stores, Swiss manufacturing, metal cutting etc and we failed. We lost money for 7 consecutive years. The domestic watches have to fund the jewellery business. Jewellery is a craft where watches are engineering. The desire to buy, own, browse jewellery in India is so high that it is a Rs 2,50,000 crore business. We created a great brand named Tanishq but misread the market and lost money, thankfully we made a comeback,” added Bhat.
Bhat said that the point he wanted to establish which was taught by Desai was that exploration should be continued, don’t give up even when we face difficulties.
“We managed our business models thereafter by taking small risks,” he added.
Bhat further delved into the topic of Meta trends 2020. He said that while the Titan story continues, we cannot miss the trends.
“I would like to talk about 5 things - climate shutdown, gender awakening, Us & Them, everyday AI and Prism Consumerism,” he said.
He elaborated climate shutdown with the recent Australian bushfire incident as an example.
“1 billion animals are supposed to have perished in the bush fire. They are the reminder of the crisis we face. The climate challenge dires up in decimals and moves forces to unite to fight even as more challenges surface,” he said.
Speaking on gender awakening, Bhat said, “It’s a meta trend with millennia if history. Gender inequality is not a problem to be solved in giphy. We saw the emergence of #metoo movement and saw actions promising some positive change.”
Elaborating on Us & them he said, “We live in an increasingly troubled world, while there are signs of positive changes on the horizon. We are also in the midst of turbulence all around. The world is getting increasingly polarized, nations, society, population, generations everywhere there is Us & them.”
Bhat elaborated on how AI is going to make life better.
“The only thing we did right was that we didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t think we were smarter than others. We grew from a single country, single brand, single business into multiple country, multiple brand, multiple businesses only because we could see India and Indians changing. If you have your ear to the ground, if you use AI or traditional market research or feet on the street, listen and respond is all I can say and that’s what we learned from Xerxes Desai,” concluded Bhat.
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